LAS VEGAS — The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's (PRCA) Xtreme Bulls Tour will ride into 2006 with new franchise ownership, new operations management and a national 10-stop Tour schedule that will be promoted aggressively and include at least 22 hours of coverage on ESPN and ESPN2, according to Winnercomm president and CEO Jim Wilburn, who made the announcement Dec. 8, 2005, during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and introduced the core management team assembled to run the Tour.
Winnercomm, America's largest independent sports production company, recently acquired the licensing rights to the PRCA's Xtreme Bulls Tour. It will operate and promote the Tour and control sponsorship sales through 2008. Tulsa-based Winnercomm is one of the largest third party producers of programming for ESPN. The company originates a wide range of television coverage of professional rodeo for the PRCA and manages the ProRodeo Web site on ESPN.com.
The 2006 Tour will be called the 2006 Xtreme Bulls Ride Hard Tour and will feature 10 stops strategically scheduled throughout the year and across the U.S., from Washington to Florida. Wilburn said Winnercomm's goal is to create a national footprint for the 2006 Xtreme Bulls Ride Hard Tour and to generate television exposure throughout the year to build interest and ratings. He said the Tour will be promoted aggressively to build anticipation for each stop. Sponsors, fans and viewers will be invited to Climb on the 2006 Ride Hard Tour which will showcase Xtreme Bulls events at famous venues and in conjunction with some of the most prestigious rodeos in America. The 2006 Ride Hard Tour begins with two events during the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo which was named the" 2005 Rodeo of the Year" during the PRCA Convention last week in Las Vegas.
"Winnercomm loves the entire sport of rodeo and we think Xtreme Bulls has the potential to be a great franchise," said Wilburn."Our Xtreme Bulls coverage is a perfect complement to our presentation of the Wrangler NFR on ESPN. Both feed off each other to grow interest in the sport."
Wilburn believes an important part of building that franchise is presenting the Tour to appeal not only to the traditional rodeo fan base, but to attract new and younger fans to rodeo as well. A key element in building a new audience for bull riding will be the ESPN and ESPN2 television coverage. ESPN currently reaches 90 million U.S. households; ESPN2 has 89 million household subscribers.
Xtreme Bulls will have 11 hours of original programming coverage on ESPN and ESPN2, plus re-airs, throughout the year providing at least 22 total hours of coverage. Wilburn said the strategy of running Xtreme Bulls coverage back-to-back creates strong programming blocks proven to build fans and drive ratings. "We're very excited to have three hours of coverage scheduled on Thanksgiving Day," he noted.
Wilburn also said Winnercomm will invest to enhance production values for the telecasts. "We're going to raise the bar and take television coverage of bull riding to an all new level," he said. "We'll be applying all we've learned covering pro rodeo and our other sports and introducing proprietary new technology that will break new ground and make watching bull riding more exciting and involving than ever before."
Winnercomm has signed a contract that will ensure famed eight-time World Champion Donnie Gay continues an exclusive representation arrangement with the Xtreme Bulls TV team. Gay was on hand for the press conference and expressed his excitement about the Tour's new direction. "These are fantastic new developments for the Tour — it's just what is needed to begin building some real momentum. I'm eager to get our TV coverage of the Ride Hard Tour underway and what better place to start than San Antonio," said Gay.
Wilburn also said Winnercomm intends to reach out and appeal to the growing action sports audience. "Bull riding is America's original extreme sport," said Wilburn. "We believe fans of action sports programming will be attracted to our Xtreme Bulls coverage."
The 2006 Xtreme Bulls Ride Hard Tour concludes in Indianapolis. The Oct. 27 event is a special exclusive performance for Future Farmers of America (FFA) members attending the 2006 National FFA Convention. The Oct. 28 performance is the Tour Finale with a $75,000 purse, and is open to the general public.
Xtreme Bulls has formed a partnership with FFA to enhance awareness of that organization's education and career programs. "We'll be recognizing and promoting the FFA at each 2006 Xtreme Bulls Ride Hard Tour stop and with special television coverage in certain programs," said Wilburn. "It's a natural alliance. Many of our bull riders were FFA members and their members and their families are big fans of our Tour."
Matt Austin, the 2005 Xtreme Bulls National Champion, who appears to be on his way to a 2005 world title this week at the Wrangler NFR, also was present for the announcements. Austin won the average and the title at the 2005 Xtreme Bulls National Championships and broke the all-time single season record for bull riding in the PRCA, winning $23,974 at the Xtreme Bulls Finals to help him surpass Terry Don West's total of $211,879 in 2003. Austin's 2005 total is currently $246,812 and continues to grow based on his earnings at the Wrangler NFR.
"Our bull riders met with Jim Wilburn and his team in Reno. We like the new direction they've outlined," said Austin. "They've got good ideas and a good reputation in our sport. We'll be ready to get the Ride Hard Tour off to a good start come February 3. It should be our best year yet."
Winnercomm-produced telecasts have earned 12 Emmy Awards, The company produces over 1,000 hours of programming annually for ESPN and 13 other networks and owns the high-flying SkyCam that has produced the unique overhead shots on ABC's Monday Night Football and ESPN's Sunday Night Football. Winnercomm programming includes horse racing (NTRA), professional rodeo (PRCA), soccer (MLS), bowling (PBA), lacrosse (MLL), cheerleading and dance (Varsity Brands), golf (LPGA, People vs. the Pros), fishing (BASS), hunting, sporting dogs, adventure and original entertainment. In addition to 10 consecutive days of same day coverage of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on ESPN, Winnercomm produces telecasts presenting the Wrangler ProRodeo Winter and Summer Tours and the Pace Picante Finales.